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Olson’s Observations

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Archive for the ‘Archeology’ Category

Atlantis Found?

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AkrotiriSome of you may know that I am into a number of geeky things other than the web and business some of which are archaeology/ancient civilizations, history and physics. Following the archaeology thread I have always been fascinated by the legend of Atlantis. It always seemed to me that there was too much written about it with too many specifics for it to be completely fiction. This lead me to write my senior thesis for my high school humanities class on one of the theories of Atlantis that I found particular compelling.

The thesis that had subscribed to and still do is based on the Greek island of Santorini (also known as Thera or Thira) being the fabled Atlantis. If you interpret the writings of Plato in a certain way you are lead there since the similarities between Santorini and Altantis are staggering.


The picture above is a satellite shot of Santorini today. The tiny piece of land in the center of the crescent is the top of a volcano. Ok, not super interesting yet. However, what if I told you that the island was in fact whole at the time of the Atlantean disaster and when the volcano exploded the center of island sank very quickly and wiped out everything and everyone on the island. Hmmm - now we’re getting somewhere. A sinking island and a population destroyed in a huge calamity. Check.

What about the population though? Were they rich and advanced? Actually, yes they were. The population that inhabited both Santorini and the larger Greek island of Crete were known as the Minoans. (Check.)

The Minoans had a very advanced civilization. They had running water, sewers, buildings with multiple stories, paved streets and many other modern conveniences we have today. They were also the center of trade in the Mediterranean which helped them to amass a lot of wealth. Their wealth also afforded them the ability to pursue the arts resulting in incredible frescos and mosaics as well as sculptures.

I was lucky enough to see a lot of this first hand when I had a chance to walk through the Minoan ruins on Santorini (the Akrotiri ruins to be specific). The parallels to modern cities were incredible. (I just touched the surface in the last couple paragraphs so if you’d like more detailed info on the parallels between Plato’s description of Atlantis and Santorini please click here. I am willing to bet that you’ll be floored by the similarities.)

Honestly I hadn’t thought too much about Atlantis in the last 6 or 7 years having concluded a lot of my thoughts on the matter back in High School and since there was not much in the way of new evidence there wasn’t much to think about anyway. However, it turns out there is new evidence concerning Atlantis that was recently found. In a piece published by the BBC last Friday scientists discuss the evidence they found that shows that Crete was destroyed by a huge tsunami around the same time that Atlantis was supposedly destroyed. Here is what Professor Bruins had to say about his findings:

“The geo-archaeological deposits contain a number of distinct tsunami signatures,” says Dutch-born geologist Professor Hendrik Bruins of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.

“Minoan building material, pottery and cups along with food residue such as isolated animal bones were mixed up with rounded beach pebbles and sea shells and microscopic marine fauna.

“The latter can only have been scooped up from the sea-bed by one mechanism - a powerful tsunami, dumping all these materials together in a destructive swoop,” says Professor Bruins.

The deposits are up to seven metres above sea level, well above the normal reach of storm waves.

“An event of ferocious force hit the coast of Crete and this wasn’t just a Mediterranean storm,” says Professor Bruins.

What about Santorini though? That island was home to the Minoans as well so is there a connection? It turns out there is. Scientists think the cause of the giant tsunami that wiped out Crete was caused by the eruption on Santorini and subsequent sinking of a large portion of that island.

So it all comes together. A rich and powerful civilization that was incredibly advanced is destroyed by a huge volcanic explosion and the tsunami that followed it. Both homes of the minoans were destroyed in the blink of an eye.

I had originally concluded that Santorini was Atlantis in and of itself but in light of the new evidence about Crete being destroyed by the tsunami that followed the explosion on Santorini I am beginning to wonder if the Atlantis refers to both Crete and Santorini and the overall Minoan civilization. I have a large suspician that it might and the facts are supporting that feeling more and more each day. While we may never know the truth about Atlantis this new evidence is starting to bring us closer to it and I am very excited to see what other evidence will be discovered in the future.

Photo Credit: Klearchos P. Kapoutsis on July,4 2006.

Written by Eric Olson

April 23rd, 2007 at 9:02 pm

Posted in Archeology

eBay UK to Help Stop Illegal Antiquities Auctions

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eBayI love when technology steps into other areas I am interested in. In this case technology is helping out in the area of archaeology. eBay UK has officially stepped in to help battle the illegal antiquity trade. I suppose I should first point out that eBay opened the doors, unknowingly of course, for people to sell their illegal antiquities online but it is good that they are now stepping in to help.

The bulk of the problem lies with people who simply do not know of the Treasure Act and are selling one-off small items that they find rather than people who are selling large hoards of artifacts and know of the legal ramifications. However, the scale of the problem is not small. Consider that, in the British system alone, 576 finds were correctly reported last year to authorities whereas 450 finds that should have been reported were not and showed up on sites like eBay.

It is important to note that this is not a problem solely concerning the illegality of something it is also a problem for history. Selling artifacts online or anywhere for that matter is not only illegal it also damages the archaeological record and could cause parts of our past to be lost forever. The more education the public receives and the more help companies like eBay lend to the cause the more history we can save.

“It belongs in a museum!” - Indiana Jones

Sources: Stone Pages, Computeract!ve (4 October 2006), 24-Hour Museum (5 October 2006)

Written by Eric Olson

October 8th, 2006 at 9:58 pm

Posted in Archeology, Technology

New Show Premier: Lost Worlds

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History ChannelI am very excited about a new History Channel show premiering tomorrow (Monday July 10th) at 9 EST/8 CST. It is called Lost Worlds and the premise of the show is that they will recreate ancient sites using the latest computer graphics technology. This should prove to be a very interesting show.

For the premier the show will take a look at sites linked with the Knights Templar most recently made famous by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. I am especially excited for this as I, along with many others, have been swept up with the themes of the Da Vinci Code. I have been reading a great book called Secrets of the Code in which Dan Burstein edits together all of the important scholarly writings and thoughts on the themes of the Da Vinci Code. It is an incredible read and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to know the “facts” behind the Da Vinci Code.

Here is what the History Channel has to say about the show tomorrow:

They defended the Holy Land through bloodshed and prayer. Founded in the 12th century, these Christian warrior monks reigned supreme for nearly 200 years before suffering a spectacular fall from grace. Tried for heresy, they were disbanded and their Grand Master burned at the stake. We’ll search behind the legend for their lost world. We recreate the city they knew as Tortosa–now hidden among modern homes in the Syrian city of Tartus. We reveal secrets of their headquarters at Temple Mount in Jerusalem, with magnificent underground vaults that could stable 1,000 horses. And we visit the circular church in London built to resemble the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the site of the Templar’s mysterious initiation rites. We bring to life the hilltop fortress that Lawrence of Arabia called “the finest castle in the world”, and return to the Mediterranean island where the Knights Templars made their last stand against Moslem enemies

Looking forward to hearing comments from anyone who watches the show or wants to discuss the Da Vinci Code.

Written by Eric Olson

July 9th, 2006 at 9:55 pm